Sit Less, Live Longer

As I said in the first baby step post, this month (or two), I want to highlight 31 ways to baby step your way into a more mindful and healthful life.  Some of the tips will be advice already stated or implied in previous posts, while some will be brand new.  This post provides the seventeenth and an explanation.  The idea is to start at the beginning and accumulate as many mindful and healthful habits as you'd like to sustain by the conclusion of the month.  It's similar to that icebreaker where you're in a circle of people and you need to repeat all of the members' names in order... it's a challenge, but you'll feel great at making progress and it'll help you see how far you've come from the 1st to the 31st!

photo taken in Richmond, VA
to see all of the beautiful RVA mural-inspired shots,
check out this Art + History + Yoga post
Baby Step # 17: Sit Less, Live Longer

When we consider the few specific habits normally considered most harmful to overall health and well-being, our modern American lists might include smoking, constantly overeating or eating high fat/ high sugar/ low nutrient foods, and lack of exercise.  Surprisingly, however, there is a somewhat seemingly innocent habit that research scientist Dr. James Levine has dubbed "the new smoking." 

According to his interview with the Los Angeles Times, Dr. Levine even stated that we lose two hours of our lives for every one hour we sit!  This is outrageous and, I'd guess, comes as a complete shock to most modern Americans.  Not that people of other cultures don't sit, but, let's be honest, can anyone out-sit an American?  Dr. Levine has pioneered practices such as the treadmill desk and has not only studied, but also written on the subject. 

Dr. Levine wrote the article "Killer Chairs" in the November (2014) issue of Scientific American.  In it, he shared a statistic I found alarming--"Americans sit for most of their waking hours, 13 hours every day on average."  So, as it says "waking hours," that doesn't even include sleep!

Combine this with another disturbing stat I saw from a few years ago by the Alliance for Childhood--"Children ages 10 to 16 now spend, on average, only 12.6 minutes per day in vigorous physical activity. Yet they spend an average of 10.4 waking hours each day relatively motionless"--and anyone would feel a sense of alarm at where we're headed!

This article, posted by the Wausau Daily Herald several days ago, confirms this position.  If you don't believe these, check out this Time article or even this Harvard Health article, specifically about the effects on women; they concur: sitting is detrimental to your health. 

Also, I've shared this on my Making Mindfulness Facebook page, but this NPR article states that the more you sit, the more at risk you are to be disabled after 60!  Much of this sitting epidemic has to do with our culture of computers/ media/ social media/ and entertainment.  Think about your favorite social activities.  ... If you just thought of going to the movies, going out to eat, listening to a live band, attending a lecture, or watching the big game, now consider: how active are these?

Not sitting (and by sitting, I mainly mean melting into the sofa/ arm chair or slumping in your desk/ kitchen chair) can help you regain your natural posture; by the way, so can yoga!  Even our regional magazines have begun to feature companies with these forward-thinking practices.  It's exciting to see that standing and treadmill desks are catching on and that businesses are taking their employees' health seriously!

In terms of what you can do, here are a few options:

- consider how much sitting you do each day
     - is there any way to incorporate standing in your daily work?
     - is this how you want to spend you time?
     - does your job fulfill you?
     - do you drive for hours at a time?  (driving is sitting, too!)

- although this is particularly difficult, if you're able, consider:
     - can you speak with your supervisor to make your workplace and work experience safer and healthier?
     - can you find another job--one better suited to your overall life/ health goals?

- consider talking to your supervisor about any of the following:
     - a standing desk space (check out this Pinterst board for inspiration!)
     - a treadmill desk space
     - walking meetings (If you still aren't convinced your boss will go for it, check out the brilliant argument from TED Talks: "Meeting--Take a Walk".)

- if these suggestions seem too extreme for right now, think about:
     - get a chair that does not allow you do disengage your core muscles, like sitting on an exercise ball
     - if you have to sit in a "normal chair," sit up straight, placing your weight in your legs, opening your hips
     - set an alarm on your computer/ phone to get up and move every 20 minutes--even if it's just to stand/ stretch/ march in place for a moment
    - take a five minute walk every hour

Whenever possible, avoid sitting and get up and get moving!  We've placed our family computer at a "standing desk" level--on a downstairs dresser; it works perfectly.  This isn't about burning calories or toning your calves, it's about creating a positive, healthy, active, better life.

Can you stand up right now?  Go take a walk? Or stand for the rest of the hour/ day?  Try it!

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